Learn to evaluate bonus offers

This article was posted on December 7, 2007

The fact that all online poker rooms give their players some sort of bonuses upon sign-up, or even over a longer period of time, is not a secret, not even for the fishiest of beginners. Telling however, which of these bonuses provide real value and which don't, is much more challenging.

Some poker rooms only offer these sign-up or first deposit bonuses to be in line with the latest trends and in order not to lose ground before the competitors who can indeed afford to provide these deals. These same guys will do everything they can to make the bonus as difficult to actually obtain as possible. Their goal is only to lure you to play in their room, not to actually provide any benefits for players.

First thing anyone will notice about a bonus is the amount of money offered. Poker rooms advertise this anywhere they can, because it is kind of like a business-card for them, yet it is hopelessly irrelevant. The amount of bonus-money advertised is usually a maximum, and it doesn't really have a lot to do with the actual amount of money you'll be getting for your first deposit. A typical first-deposit bonus offer would be the following: you get 100% match on your deposit up to $200. The $200 looks nice on paper (or rather, on your computer screen) but if you deposit $50, $50 is what you're getting and not $200. Thus, the match-percentage becomes much more relevant even though it too is dwarfed by the importance of other factors.

Most of the sign up bonuses offered to players are transferred into a bonus money account pending redemption. You need to play real money poker and generate rake for the room to have your bonus unlocked. The amount of rake required for the unlocking of $1 of your bonus is the real measure of the quality of the overall offer. Some poker rooms will unlock $1 for every $10 generated in rake, others however, will require much more than that. Naturally, the less rake you have to generate to get your hands on the bonus, the better off you are. Normally, tougher requirement would mean that you'd get your money later, and you'd have to work more for it, but in reality some bonus setups up the stakes on this matter.

They say the bonus expires in anything between 30-60 days, and if you don't have it all unlocked by then, you get zilch. Is this fair? It is actually, and if the bonus unlocks fairly quickly, you shouldn't have any problems with the deadline whatsoever. If the bonus is made very difficult to unlock though, plus it has a very short validity, it becomes a lousy one, regardless of the maximum sum and the match-percentage.

Some poker rooms accept bonuses to be unlocked in smaller set chunks, thus making it possible for players to get at least some of the money even if they fail to unlock all of it by the deadline. Others though, will only accept redemption in one lump sum, which is an 'all or nothing' situation they put their players into. Certainly, you want the bonus which is more flexible, because that way you know you still get something if things don't quite turnout as planned.

Another fairly important factor that largely determines the quality of your bonus, is the method used by the room to calculate the rake generated by each player. After all, you don't want to be unlocking other peoples' bonuses for them, do you?

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